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Lyndon B. Johnson: Special Message to the Congress on the Latin American Summit Meeting.
Lyndon B. Johnson
110 - Special Message to the Congress on the Latin American Summit Meeting.
March 13, 1967
Public Papers of the Presidents
Lyndon B. Johnson<br>1967: Book I
Lyndon B. Johnson
1967: Book I
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To the Congress of the United States:

In less than a month, the leaders of the American states will meet in Punta del Este in Uruguay.

It will be the first such meeting in a decade, and the second ever held, of the heads of the free nations of our hemispheric system.

This meeting represents another link in the bond of partnership which joins us with more than 230 million neighbors to the south.

The gathering is far more than a symbol of flourishing friendship. Its purpose is a review of the progress we have made together in a great adventure which unites the destinies of all of us. Beyond that it will include a common commitment to the historic and humane next steps we plan to take together.

I look to this meeting with enthusiasm. The peaceful and progressive revolution which is transforming Latin America is one of the great inspirational movements of our time. Our participation in that revolution is a worthy enterprise blending our deepest national traditions with our most responsible concepts of hemispheric solidarity.


The cooperative spirit between the rest of the Americas and the United States has been building for decades.

The establishment of the Inter-American Development Bank in 1959, and the Act of Bogota in 1960, under the leadership of President Eisenhower, helped turn that spirit to substance. In those historic compacts the American governments pledged their joint efforts to the development of programs to improve the lives of all the people of Latin America. They provided the impetus for an action taken in 1961 on which the history of the hemisphere has since turned. That action--the Alliance for Progress, which moved dramatically forward under President Kennedy--fused old dreams and fired new hopes. With its commitment of mutual assistance and self-help programs, it attacked evils as old as the condition of man--hunger, ignorance and disease.

That Alliance is now six years old.

What can we say of it?

We can say that there is a clear record of progress. Per capita growth rates for Latin America show that more countries have broken the economic stagnation of earlier years. Reform and modernization are advancing as a new wave of managers and technicians apply their skills. There have been steady gains in private, national and foreign investments. Inflation is easing. The struggle for social justice is proceeding.

These are all true. But the statements of progress are more meaningful, and they more realistically reflect the spirit of the Alliance, when they relate to the people for whose lives the Alliance itself was created. Since the Alliance began, and with the funds that we have contributed:

Men, women and children are alive today who would otherwise have died.

--100 million people are being protected from malaria. In 10 countries, deaths caused by malaria dropped from 10,810 to 2,280 in three years' time. Smallpox cases declined almost as sharply.

--1,200 health centers, including hospitals and mobile medical units, are in operation or soon will be.

For tens of thousands of families, the most fundamental conditions of life are improving.

--350,000 housing units have been, or are now being, built.

--2,000 rural wells and 1,170 portable water supply systems have been built to benefit some 20 million persons.

Children are going to school now who would not have gone before.

--Primary school enrollments have increased by 23%; secondary school enrollments by 50%; university enrollments by 39%.

--28,000 classrooms have been built.

--160,000 teachers have been trained or given additional training.

--More than 14 million textbooks have been distributed.

--13 million school children and 3 million pre-schoolers participate in school lunch programs.

Men whose fathers for generations have worked land owned by others now work it as their own.

--16 countries have legislation dealing directly with land reform.

--With U.S. assistance, 1.1 million acres have been irrigated and 106,000 acres reclaimed.

--More than 700,000 agricultural loans have benefitted 3.5 million people.

--15,000 miles of road have been built or improved, many of them farm-to-market access roads.

All of these are heartening facts. But they are only the beginning of the story, and only part of it. Statistics can only suggest the deep human meaning of hope alive now where once none lived. Statistics cannot report the wonder of a child born into a world which will give him a chance to break through the tyranny of indifference which doomed generations before him to lives of bleakness and want and misery.

Nor can they reveal the revolution which has come about in the minds of tens of millions of people when they saw that their own efforts, combined with those of their governments and their friends abroad, could change their lives for the better.

Perhaps most important of all, statistics cannot adequately reflect the emergence of a vigorous, competent and confident new generation of Latin American leaders. These men are determined to see realized in their own time a strong, modern Latin America, loyal to its own traditions and history. They are men who know that rhetoric and resolutions are no substitute for sustained hard work.

And statistics can never tell us what might have been. They cannot record the shots which might have rung out in the avenidas and plazas of a dozen Latin American cities, but did not--or the howls of angry crowds which might have formed, but did not. The full success of the Alliance for Progress must be sought not only in what has been accomplished but in what has been avoided as well.

Ferment gripped the hemisphere when the Alliance was born. In places throughout the world, terror with its bloodshed sought to redress ancient evils. And in some of these places--in Cuba and half a world away in Southeast Asia--even greater evil followed the thrust of violence. Through their own efforts under the Alliance for Progress, the Latin Americans have transformed the hemisphere into a region of determination and hope.

The United States participation in the Alliance was a bold affirmation of its belief that the true revolution which betters men's lives can be effected peacefully. The Alliance's six-year record of accomplishments is history's clear testament to the validity of that belief.

It is also a testament to the validity of the underlying principle of self-help. Our support has been vitally important to the successes so far achieved. But the commitments and dedication of the Latin American nations themselves to these tasks has been the keystone of that success.


The record of progress only illuminates the work which still must be done if life for the people of this hemisphere is truly to improve--not just for today, but for the changing years ahead.

Last August, in a statement on the fifth anniversary of the Alliance for Progress, I described the challenge in these terms:

"If present trends continue, the population of this hemisphere will be almost 1 billion by the year 2000. Two-thirds--some 625 million--will live in Latin America. Whatever may be done through programs to reduce the rate of population growth, Latin America faces a vast challenge.

"Farm production, for instance, should increase by 6 percent every year, and that will be double the present rate.

"At least 140 million new jobs will need to be created.

"Over a million new homes should be built each year.

"More than 175,000 new doctors need to be trained to meet the very minimum requirements.

"Hundreds of thousands of new classrooms should be constructed.

"And annual per capita growth rates should increase to the range of 4 to 6 percent.

"These requirements, added to the demands of the present, mean that new sights must be set, that new directions and renewed drive must be found if we are to meet the challenge, if we are to move forward."

It is with these sober problems confronting us that the leaders of the American states will meet at Punta del Este.


Our governments have been hard at work for months preparing for this meeting.

Our concern has centered on the question of how we can speed the development process in Latin America. We know that growth and trade are interacting forces. We know that they depend on the free movement of products, people and capital. We know they depend on people who are healthy and educated. We know that these conditions contain the seeds of prosperity for all of us.

Further, based on our joint experience so far under the Alliance, we know that the future progress of the hemisphere must rest on four strong pillars:

1. Elimination of Barriers to Trade

Civilization in most of Latin America followed along the coastal rim of the continent. Today the centers of population are concentrated here. Vast inner frontiers lie remote and untouched, separated from each other by great rivers, mountains, forests and deserts. Simon Bolivar saw these natural barriers as major obstacles to trade and communication and to his dream of a single great Latin American republic.

Because of them, Latin American countries for a century and a half tended to look outward for their markets to Europe and the United States.

Now they are looking inward as well. They see the same barriers, but they see them as less formidable. They are confident that with modern technology they can be overcome. Now with projects set in motion by the Alliance for Progress, men are beginning to carve roads along the slopes of the Andes, push bridges across the rushing rivers, connect power grids, extend pipelines and link the overland national markets.

The barriers of nature symbolize obstructions every bit as restrictive as the artificial trade barriers that men erect. The work to remove them both must proceed together.

Latin American leaders have seen the very real threat of industrial stagnation in the high tariff barriers they have erected against their commerce with each other. They see economic integration as indispensable to their future industrial growth.

The Central American countries, stimulated by Alliance programs, have already achieved spectacular increases in trade and investment. The larger grouping of South American states and Mexico, however, has approached economic unity at a slower pace.

Now both groups together must systematically move toward a Latin American Common Market. When this is carried into effect, it will bring the most profound change in hemispheric relations since independence. The countries of Latin America have given clear and sure indication that they intend to join together to advance toward this goal.

2. Improvement of Education

The burden of illiteracy, which the masses of people in Latin America have borne for centuries, is beginning to lift. In other times, the pace might have been satisfactory. It cannot be considered so today.

The countries of Latin America hope and aim to be economically strong. Such nations will require trained people in an abundance far greater than their classrooms and laboratories provide. The scientists, the teachers, the skilled laborers, the administrators and the planners on whom tomorrow depends must be trained before tomorrow arrives. Children must go to school in ever-increasing numbers. Adults who have never written their names must be raised to the level of literacy. University facilities must be expanded and scientific, technical and vocational training must be provided of different kinds and in different fields.

All of this means more schools and an expansion of educational opportunities to reach more and more people with every passing month.

3. Agriculture

Half the people of Latin America live in rural areas.

Most of that rural life is still shackled by poverty and neglect. Agricultural productivity is still restricted by outdated methods and outmoded policies. Comprehensive programs and reforms must be accelerated to bring modern farming techniques to the campo.

We and our neighbors to the south envision a dynamic Latin American agriculture which will help raise the standards of rural life.

We envision a sufficient increase in the production of food to provide for their growing populations--and to help meet world needs as well.

We envision a modernization of farming policies and techniques which will lead to a healthy competitive climate for food production.

4. Health

Finally, we will strive harder than ever before to improve the health of all the people.

The battle against diseases that kill and cripple will be intensified.

Programs to make safe water supply and essential sanitation services available to all will be accelerated.

Nutrition levels for poor children and their parents will be advanced.

These are the problems we face together, and the promises we envision together, as we prepare for Punta del Este.

The problems are real. But the promises are also real. They are not empty visions. They are all within our reach. They will not be accomplished quickly or easily. But they are objectives worthy of the support of all our people.


In keeping with the spirit of our commitment under the Alliance for Progress and after a careful review of the objectives which our Latin American neighbors have set for themselves, I believe that we should pledge increased financial assistance in the years ahead.

The fundamental principle which has guided us in the past--demonstrated need and self-help--will continue to shape our actions in the future.

I recommend that Congress approve a commitment to increase our aid by up to $1.5 billion or about $300 million per year over the next 5 years.

It must not be at the expense of our efforts in other parts of this troubled world.

This amount will be in addition to the $1 billion we have been annually investing in the future of Latin American democracy, since the Alliance for Progress began 6 years ago. The total value of our economic assistance, even after the proposed increases, will still be only a fraction of the resources the Latin American nations are themselves investing.

The $1.5 billion increase I propose must be considered an approximate figure. Its precise determination will depend on steps which the Latin American nations themselves must take. But even so, we can project in a general way what will be necessary:

1. Agriculture, Education, and Health

Approximately $900 million of this increase should be used over the next 5 years to train teachers and build new laboratories and classrooms; to increase food production and combat the malnutrition which stunts the promise of young children; to fight disease and cure the ill.

$100 million of this amount has been included in the fiscal 1968 budget totals. I will request that it be added to the new obligational authority of $543 million already recommended for the Alliance for Progress.

For the next four fiscal years, the additional annual amount of some $200 million is within the $750 million authorization for the Alliance for Progress approved by Congress last year.

2. A Latin American Common Market

Approximately one-quarter to one-half billion dollars over a 3 to 5 year period, beginning about 1970, may be required to assist Latin .America to move toward a common market.

Progress in this direction will require a period of transition. To help with this adjustment, assistance can be used to retrain workers, ease balance of payments problems, and stimulate intra-Latin American trade.

The members of the Alliance for Progress, including the United States, should be prepared to finance this assistance on an equitable matching basis.

I will ask Congress to authorize these funds only when the first essential steps toward a common market are taken.

3. Multi-National Projects--Communications, Roads, and River Systems

Approximately $150 million over a 3 year period should provide additional funds to the Inter-American Bank's Fund for Special Operations. These increased contributions can help finance pre-investment studies and a portion of the cost of new multi-national projects:

--Roads to link the nations and people of Latin America.

--Modern communication networks to speed communications.

--Bridges to carry the fruits of commerce over river barriers; dams to stem the ravages of flood.

--Hydroelectric plants to provide a plentiful source of power for growth and prosperity.

We will request Congressional authorization to provide this amount together with our regular $250 million annual contribution for each of the next 3 years to the Inter-American Bank's Fund for Special Operations.

We expect our partners in the Bank to increase their contributions on a proportional basis.


For the nations participating, Punta del Este will be a returning. It was there, six years ago in that city by the sea, that the American nations framed the charter of the Alliance which unites the hopes of this hemisphere.

We will be bringing with us the accumulated wisdom shaped by the experience gained in the years that have intervened.

We have learned much. Our sister countries know, and know well, that the burden of the task is theirs, the decisions are theirs, the initiative to build these new societies must be theirs. They know that the only road to progress is the road of self-help.

They know that our role can only be that of support, with our investment only a small portion of what they themselves contribute to their future.

This knowledge strengthens their own resolve, and their own commitment.

The people of the United States have learned, over the six years since that first conference at Punta del Este, that the investment to which we pledged our support there is a good and honorable one.

It is an investment made in the spirit of our world view, so well described by a great American jurist, Learned Hand:

Right knows no boundaries, and justice no frontiers; the brotherhood of man is not a domestic institution.

That view of the world provides us with the knowledge that service is mutually rewarding. We have learned in the span of a generation that when we help others in a truly meaningful way, we serve our own vital interests as well.

I could go to the summit meeting with the President's executive authority and reach understandings with our Latin American neighbors on behalf of this country. I believe it is much more in our democratic tradition if the Executive and the Congress work together as partners in this matter.

I am, therefore, going to you in the Congress not after a commitment has been made, but before making any commitment. I seek your guidance and your counsel. I have already met with some 40 of your leaders.

I am asking the entire Congress and the American people to consider thoroughly my recommendations. I will look to their judgment and support as I prepare for our Nation's return to Punta del Este.

The White House
March 13, 1967

Note: For the President's meeting with the American Chiefs of State at Punta del Este, Uruguay, see Items 175-178.

A bill authorizing additional funds for the Inter-American Development Bank was approved by the President on September 22, 1967 (see Item 394).

Citation: Lyndon B. Johnson: "Special Message to the Congress on the Latin American Summit Meeting.," March 13, 1967. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=28129.
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